Liz Storm: Want to gift books this holiday? Here are some ideas

The 2020 holiday season may look different than most, but one way to tell friends and family near and far that you’re thinking of them is to give them a book they will love. If you’re looking for suggestions, Johnson County Public Library has released its annual Holiday Book Gift Guide, featuring recommended reads for all age groups and interests.

For the budding readers in your life, librarian Darcy recommends The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar, about a boy who loves wearing colorful outfits until his family moves somewhere new, and he begins wearing white every day because he wants to disappear. School-aged readers looking for a laugh may enjoy Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim, in which a case of mistaken identity gives 11-year-old Yumi a spot in a kids’ comedy camp.

For kids who like comics, the library’s assistant director Sarah recommends When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, the true story of Omar and his younger brother growing up in a refugee camp in Kenya. Sarah says, “Although the subject matter is difficult, the graphic novel format makes Omar’s story accessible to a younger audience. Heartbreaking yet hopeful, this book is a window into a world far away. And while many of Omar’s circumstances in a refugee camp are different than what we experience, his deep love of family and education shows that some things are universal.”

For teen readers, librarian Erin recommends Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-Town America, edited by Nora Shalaway Carpenter. Erin says, “I devoured this collection of stories about small towns, back roads, first love, show pigs, college and teen drama. The stories, poems and comics take place all over the United States in small rural communities and help challenge the way that many Americans view them.”

For the friend or relative who’s always watching cooking shows, the library’s director Lisa recommends Everything Chocolate: A Decadent Collection of Morning Pastries, Nostalgic Sweets, and Showstopping Desserts by America’s Test Kitchen. Lisa says the book, “[Has] well-researched recipes and wonderful photography. It will have you dreaming that you’re competing in Chocolate Week at the Great British Baking Show!”

Librarian Todd recommends Brian Greene’s Until the End of Time for the armchair physicist or philosopher, a book that “takes the reader on a tour through the history of the universe and its likely future, while, along the way, discussing the rise of complex life, consciousness, culture and humanity’s search for meaning and purpose. It is a lot to pack into a single volume, but the author is so engaging that the reader won’t want to put the book down.”

Your friend who is always binge watching the latest horror series will love Home Before Dark by Riley Sager. Librarian Erin says, “This horror novel had definite Haunting of Hill House vibes. I couldn’t put it down. It was compulsively readable, creepy, and super intriguing!”

Those who like historical fiction or intergenerational stories with family secrets may like Britt Bennett’s The Vanishing Half. I loved this story that follows the lives of twin sisters Desiree and Stella and their daughters after Stella abandons her family for a life where she can “pass” as white. A fascinating look at colorism and the impact of trauma on a family.

For more recommendations, see the Johnson County Public Library’s full Holiday Book Gift Guide online at, or ask for a copy at any JCPL branch. For that tough-to-please friend (or yourself), you can also fill out a Find Your Next Book form at for more personalized recommendations.